Blogs and teachers

Have just sat through an intereting research presentation on the use of blogs in a pre-service teacher education programme at San Diego State University with Bernie Dodge (of web quests fame). The focus of this was on a group of English students who used a personal blog to keep a journal of their experiences as a student teacher whilst teaching English to high school students. As such, the presentation provided only a narrow view of what a blog is, limited pretty much to being a semi-private online diary. No coment was made about the use of links and additional features such as “blog-rolling” etc.

The discussion got me thinking about the ways in which Blogs are used, and the connection with Gladwell’s thoughts about connectors and mavins in his book The Tipping Point . Gladwell defines “connectors” as people who have a much wider social circle of friends than most others, while “Mavins” are those who have the unuque ability to gather information from a variety of sources and piece it together in a way that others can access and understand. Both of these sorts of people, Gladwell claims, have what he terms “social power” (as distinct from economic or political power) – and it is this power that is likely to be a dominant determinant of change in the future.

My musings are around what an ideal tool a blog provides for these sorts of people – and how the tool itself, might encourage these attributes in many others! Truly an instrument of social empowerment and social change!

8 thoughts on “Blogs and teachers

  1. Thanks Derek. The connection you draw between blogs and Gladwell’s types is helpful. I’m sure you are right. I’m musing on the uses connectors and mavins put the online tools to.

  2. Here’s a paper your may like to lookup on much the same thing:

    Stiler and Philleo used to allow students to write their practice journals online. The drawback they cite is privacy, but this could easily be overcome with institutional hosting. I believe the advantages are many: feedback can be truly timely, lecturers can spread their marking burden, and with RSS or Atom feeds (not available with the account at the time Stiler et al. wrote) a lecturer could manageably follow a large number of relfective journals in an aggregator.

    I’m also a fan of the WebQuest format, I’m looking forward to hearing what Bernie Dodge is doing with WebQuests and Wikis when he runs a workshop at Navcon2k4.

  3. Thanks Derek – the notion of “social power” is core to our view at ULS that the blog will transform the way people share and use information in an institutional sense. It will be interesting to see the use and abuse of this concept as the ULS web presence grows or wanes while we pilot the open and loosely knit architecture of our blog/wiki web doorway!

    Since we are going to explore the power of the blog to extend the learning opportunities available to participants at Navcon (everyone will get a blog to use for the conference both before, during and after). A small group – 30 or so – will be also asked to concentrate on using this as a part of their reflection for 3 months and we will offer them the sort of facilitation that has been available through Tom and Stephen’s work in this area.

    keep looking for more useful comment and observation

  4. Stephen
    Thanks for this reference – I’ve now attended several Blog-related sessions here at NECC, all telling much of the same story. The idea of institutional hosting as a means of overcoming the privacy issue is one approach – but don’t you think that this is placing a limitation on the fundamental principle of the ‘democracy’ of blogging??
    Is this a case of a ‘genre’ in literacy terms that has yet to mature? If so, should our role as educators be to, in some cases allow peopel to make mistakes so they can learn from them, and in others, to intervene in an appropriate manner where we can see there is likely to be harm to self or others? All the while, making sure that participation in the blog world is covered by well developed and through through responsible use policies??

  5. Thanks for your thoughts Derek. Education through Acceptable/Responsible Use Policies has an important place, but is the democratic nature of blogging an issue for reflective journaling? The concern for me is that reflection should not be inhibited (although writing should still be responsible).

    I certainly wouldn’t want to see traditional reflective journals simply recreated as blogs. I think the collaborative possiblities of blogs add some exciting dimensions to reflection. What effect would adding the student’s mentor (e.g., an associate teacher) as a collaborative partner in the blog have?

  6. Presentation research are useful. Thought of this research is very reasonable and reliable. Connection of this knowledge is excelent.

  7. Interesting too, that it was Bernie Dodge. Have been working on a web quest project proposal recently. How small the world is!

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